If you have always wanted to visit a town called “The place for gathering heads”, then you should head to Bintulu in Sarawak. The name of this town and district is supposedly derived from Menta Ulau, a local phrase which means, well, the place for gathering heads.* In a time when Bintulu still belonged to the Sultan of Brunei, it seems that Melanau pirates would prey on passing ships and decapitated their crew. Piracy was brought under control when Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah, bought Bintulu from the Sultan in 1853.
Nowadays, Bintulu is more well-known for LNG. The Petronas Liquefied Natural Gas Complex is currently the world’s largest liquefied natural gas production facility on a single site**. To a lesser extent, it is also well-known for belacan and cincaluk, a famous shrimp paste often used in Malay cooking.
The town is the fourth largest in Sarawak with a population of about 209,000, and is located at roughly equal distance from Miri and Sibu (215 km). It is also geographically located halfway between Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, the capital cities of Sarawak and Sabah respectively.
The most interesting thing to do in town is to wander around the markets. The blue-roofed market is the central market, and situated next to it is the Pasar Tamu, where traders sell their goods in the open area. The market has some very interesting signsboards.
The sign says “DO NOT URINATE here or in any public places. You can be fined RM1500 or jailed for 9 months or both.”
Does this mean that people urinate here so much that they need to put up a sign like this? (Note: photo taken 6 years ago. Not sure if signs are still there.)
* Sourced from Rough Guides. I have not been able to verify the accuracy of this statement.